Liverpool honoured one of its most famous sons last night as actor and comedian Ricky Tomlinson was granted the ‘Freedom of the City’ in a ceremony at the Town Hall.
The award was presented by Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Erica Kemp, in recognition of his remarkable charity work, for entertaining the nation over many years and for his part in the fight for justice for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy.
Tomlinson, the star of films and TV shows such as Brookside and the Royle Family, was clearly moved by the accolade and he told JMU Journalism: “I’m overwhelmed. I’m deeply delighted and chuffed really. It hasn’t sunk in.
“I’ve had loads of awards for acting and stuff like that, even for writing books, and this is a bit special because it’s given to me by the ordinary working class people of Liverpool.”
The 75-year-old, who some may be surprised to discover was born closer to Blackpool than Liverpool, has lived on Merseyside for almost his whole life and Tomlinson wouldn’t have it any other way.
He told JMU Journalism: “I get asked time and time again how come you don’t live in London. I say they’ve got nothing I want, I’ve got everything I want here – family, friends, my work, my grandkids.
“I think the new waterfront is my favourite part of the city. It’s beautiful. The new buildings are fabulous and so are the old ones. It’s a great city. I love Liverpool and I love the Liverpool people – I can’t thank them enough.
“It’s very rare I’m stuck for words,” Tomlinson admitted. “When I was awarded it I had a little tear in my eye, which is very unusual for me.”
Ricky is the 53rd person in 112 years to have been bestowed the Freedom of the City of Liverpool, following the likes of The Beatles and Nelson Mandela.
Lord Mayor Kemp told JMU Journalism that Tomlinson is a worthy recipient, saying: “He deserves this award. A lot of people hold him in high esteem. He’s an inspiration and a great ambassador for the city.
“It’s the combination of someone who fights for causes they believe in, supports charities and generously donates who deserves this award. That’s three assets he holds. He’s proud to be a Liverpudlian and he is proud of his roots. He is still here and I think that’s a tremendous honour to our city.”
Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said Ricky is one of those very rare and special people, somebody that he would describe as a “Scouser’s Scouser”.
Mayor Anderson added: “He is a great example to people because of what he has achieved as a working class lad.”
Ricky’s wife Rita accompanied her husband at the ceremony and she told JMU Journalism: “I think it’s well deserved. I am so proud and so is he to be awarded this honour.”
Liverpool actress Sue Johnston, who played Ricky’s on-screen wife in Brookside and the Royle Family, wrote a letter congratulating him on his award.
In it she said how thrilled she was to hear that he was being granted the Freedom of the City and what a remarkable man he is. She added: “You’ve created one of television’s greatest characters: Jim Royle. Lazy, shocking, sometimes vulgar, but he was so loveable… and no acting required!”
Additional reporting by Katie Dodson